Secrecy News

Environmental Considerations in Military Operations

The environmental impacts of military operations are increasingly becoming factors in the planning and execution of military activities.

“The military has a new appreciation for the interdependence between military missions, the global community, and the environment,” according to a newly revised and reissued Army doctrinal manual. See Environmental Considerations, ATP 3-34.5, August 10, 2015.

Of course, military operations by their nature are not environment-friendly. “The primary mission of the military is to fight and win wars. Warfare is destructive to humans and to the natural environment.”

Even so, environmental impacts of military action can be limited and managed up to a point, the Army manual says. “Integrating environmental considerations into the planning process helps to identify, prevent, and mitigate potential threats to the environment (including those that affect historical and cultural resources) and environmental threats to personnel.”

This is not a matter of sentimentality or political correctness, the manual emphasizes, but of military self-interest and tactical necessity. “Integrating environmental considerations into operations will benefit FHP [force health protection, i.e. the health of U.S. and allied soldiers]. Environmental degradation jeopardizes the well-being of the local population and can undermine HN [host nation] support for U.S. policies.”

“Environmental damage created by U.S. forces conducting operations, however unintentional (such as the damage to Babylon), may be used as a weapon in the public information campaign against U.S. operations and can undermine U.S. strategic objectives,” the manual says.

Establishment of a U.S. military base in Iraq’s historic city of Babylon in 2003 caused “major damage” to surviving antiquities at the site, the Washington Post and other news organizations reported.